Publications

2021
The memories of others: How leaders import collective memories in political speech
Adams, T., & Baden, C. (2021). The memories of others: How leaders import collective memories in political speech. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Owing to the increasing presence of globalized communication and the accelerated exchange of cultural products, there is a consensus that collective memories transcend their original contexts. We investigate how imported memories are recruited in political speech to render meaning relevant to domestic publics. Based on a qualitative comparative long-term analysis of speeches held by heads of state in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Germany (1945–2018), we identify three ways in which memories are imported into new settings. Findings show that memories are not imported as meaningful wholes, but arranged selectively and recontextualized, confining their role to supporting predetermined domestic agendas. While the progressing transnationalization may have expanded the repertoire of memories available for public sense-making, the use of memories remains firmly rooted within the national context.

Blinded by the lies? Toward an integrated definition of conspiracy theories
Baden, C., & Sharon, T. (2021). Blinded by the lies? Toward an integrated definition of conspiracy theories. Communication Theory , 31 (1), 82-106. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Despite widespread concern over the alleged rise of conspiracy theories, scholars continue to disagree whether it is possible to distinguish specific kinds of conspiracist accounts that can justifiably be denounced as objectionable. In this article, we review scholarship from multiple disciplines to develop a composite definition of “conspiracy theories proper” (CTP) that violate fundamental norms of democratic discourse. Besides referring to grand conspiracies to account for social phenomena, we argue, such conspiracy theories: (a) assume conspirators’ pervasive control over events and information, (b) construct dissent as a Manichean binary, and (c) employ an elusive, dogmatic epistemology. We discuss the operational potential and limitations of our definition using news user talkbacks on the U.S., British and German online editions of Russia Today (RT), a popular platform among proponents of out-of-mainstream political views. Identifying key operational challenges in the classification of natural discourse, we sketch avenues toward a more rigorous study of contentious political talk.

Diversity in News Recommendations
Bernstein, A., de Vreese, C. H., Helberger, N., Schulz, W., Zweig, K., Baden, C., Beam, M. A., et al. (2021). Diversity in News Recommendations. Dagstuhl Manifestos , 9 (1), 43-61. Publisher's VersionAbstract

News diversity in the media has for a long time been a foundational and uncontested basis for ensuring that the communicative needs of individuals and society at large are met. Today, people increasingly rely on online content and recommender systems to consume information challenging the traditional concept of news diversity. In addition, the very concept of diversity, which differs between disciplines, will need to be re-evaluated requiring a interdisciplinary investigation, which requires a new level of mutual cooperation between computer scientists, social scientists, and legal scholars. Based on the outcome of a multidisciplinary workshop, we have the following recommendations, directed at researchers, funders, legislators, regulators, and the media industry: 1. Do more research on news recommenders and diversity. 2. Create a safe harbor for academic research with industry data. 3. Optimize the role of public values in news recommenders. 4. Create a meaningful governance framework. 5. Fund a joint lab to spearhead the needed interdisciplinary research, boost practical innovation, develop. reference solutions, and transfer insights into practice.

2020
Dynamics of (dis)trust between the news media and their audience: The case of the April 2019 Israeli exit polls
Aharoni, T., Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K., Baden, C., & Overbeck, M. (2020). Dynamics of (dis)trust between the news media and their audience: The case of the April 2019 Israeli exit polls. Journalism. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper explores the dynamics of (dis)trust among experts, journalists, and audiences through the case study of an inaccurate exit poll aired on a leading Israeli television channel. It combines empirical data from the Israeli April 2019 elections with a conceptual view of exit polls as both sources of information and national rituals to address public discourse on the polls and its underlying suspicions. A multi-method approach yielded a corpus consisting of focus groups meetings with citizens, in-depth semi-structured interviews with journalists, pollsters and experts, and qualitative textual analysis of news reports. Using inductive-qualitative analysis, we identified three types of public narratives, each casting blame for the erroneous exit poll projection on a different type of actor. The statistical and biased-media narratives tally with declining trust in the news media and assume misbehavior by pollsters and news creators respectively. The deception narrative, on the other hand, suggests that right-wing voters systematically sabotaged the exit poll projections. By extending trust beyond journalistic information, this narrative foregrounds the cultural meaning of election night rituals. Taken together, the narratives found in this study delineate (dis)trust as an interplay of active participants in the creation, reception, and interpretation of news. Our findings thus touch upon key attitudes towards both media and democracy and have implications for further studies on collective rituals and information evaluations in an era of eroding trust.

Maintenance of news frames: How US, British and Russian news made sense of unfolding events in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis
Baden, C., & Stalpouskaya, K. (2020). Maintenance of news frames: How US, British and Russian news made sense of unfolding events in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. Journalism Studies , 21 (16), 2305-2325. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Frames are indispensable tools for journalists to make sense of unfolding events, but they also constrain their perspective to most readily see what they expect to see. In this study, we examine how pre-established news frames continue to inform journalists’ framing practices despite the ongoing arrival of novel, often contravening information. Specifically, we argue that dominant frames rooted in pre-existing cultural perceptions and strategic elite frame building have the capacity to overpower an open-minded appraisal of available information. In a qualitative, diachronic analysis of US, British and Russian news coverage of the 2013 Syrian Chemical Weapons crisis, we analyze journalists’ strategies for negotiating between pre-established news frames and novel, discrepant claims and observations. We find that most claims that directly contravened existing frames were either ignored or discounted by questioning the credibility of sources. By contrast, unforeseen events effectively challenged the predictive validity of dominant frames, necessitating adaptations with often far-reaching consequences for the frame. Observed patterns were consistent across outlets, despite the different journalistic cultures and embedding media systems and political settings. Our findings illuminate the important role of journalists’ pre-established ideas, which shape their news selection and framing practices, contributing to the maintenance of existing news narratives.

Frames are indispensable tools for journalists to make sense of unfolding events, but they also constrain their perspective to most readily see what they expect to see. In this study, we examine how pre-established news frames continue to inform journalists’ framing practices despite the ongoing arrival of novel, often contravening information. Specifically, we argue that dominant frames rooted in pre-existing cultural perceptions and strategic elite frame building have the capacity to overpower an open-minded appraisal of available information. In a qualitative, diachronic analysis of US, British and Russian news coverage of the 2013 Syrian Chemical Weapons crisis, we analyze journalists’ strategies for negotiating between pre-established news frames and novel, discrepant claims and observations. We find that most claims that directly contravened existing frames were either ignored or discounted by questioning the credibility of sources. By contrast, unforeseen events effectively challenged the predictive validity of dominant frames, necessitating adaptations with often far-reaching consequences for the frame. Observed patterns were consistent across outlets, despite the different journalistic cultures and embedding media systems and political settings. Our findings illuminate the important role of journalists’ pre-established ideas, which shape their news selection and framing practices, contributing to the maintenance of existing news narratives.

 

Hybrid content analysis: Toward a strategy for the theory-driven, computer-assisted classification of large text corpora.
Baden, C., Kligler-Vilenchik, N., & Yarchi, M. (2020). Hybrid content analysis: Toward a strategy for the theory-driven, computer-assisted classification of large text corpora. Communication Methods & Measures , 14 (3), 165-183. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Given the scale of digital communication, researchers face a painful trade-off between powerful, scalable computational strategies, and the theoretical sensitivity offered by small-scale manual analyses. Especially in the study of natural discourse on digital media, the interactive, ever-evolving stream of conversations across multiple platforms regularly defies efforts to obtain well-defined samples of manageable size, while their linguistic variability imposes major limitations upon the accuracy of automated tools. In this paper, we draw upon recent advances in computational text analysis to develop a hybrid approach to the deductive analysis of large-scale digital discourse, which combines the algorithmic extraction of coherent, recurrent patterns with a manual coding of identified patterns. The approach scales up to treat millions of texts at minimal added human effort, while affording researchers close control over the process of theory-guided classification. We demonstrate the power of Hybrid Content Analysis by studying polarization in a quarter of a million contributions from cross-platform interactive social media discourse about a controversial incident.

Interpretative polarization across platforms: How political disagreement develops over time on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp
Kligler-Vilenchik, N., Baden, C., & Yarchi, M. (2020). Interpretative polarization across platforms: How political disagreement develops over time on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Social Media + Society. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Political polarization, seen as a key threat to contemporary democracy, has been tied to the rise of digital social media. However, how this process develops in the context of a social media environment characterized by multiple platforms—with differing norms, contents, and affordances—has not been sufficiently explored. In the present article, we propose a distinction between positional polarization, that is, people’s view on a political issue, and interpretative polarization, that is, how that political issue is contextualized and understood. We use this distinction to examine an issue of political controversy in Israel, examining how polarization develops over time, on three social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. We find that contrasting positions are strongly connected to conflicting interpretations, both of which are clear from the start, with only minor overtime shifts. Moreover, while sharing broad similarities, the three platforms show a few distinctive polarization dynamics—both positional and interpretative—that can be connected to their varied socio-technical affordances. The study advances our theoretical understanding of polarization by examining how different social media platforms may shape distinct polarization dynamics over time, with different implications for democratic debate.

Political polarization on the digital sphere: A cross-platform, over-time analysis of interactional, positional, and affective polarization on social media
Yarchi, M., Baden, C., & Kligler-Vilenchik, N. (2020). Political polarization on the digital sphere: A cross-platform, over-time analysis of interactional, positional, and affective polarization on social media. Political Communication. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Political polarization on the digital sphere poses a real challenge to many democracies around the world. Although the issue has received some scholarly attention, there is a need to improve the conceptual precision in the increasingly blurry debate. The use of computational communication science approaches allows us to track political conversations in a fine-grained manner within their natural settings – the realm of interactive social media. The present study combines different algorithmic approaches to studying social media data in order to capture both the interactional structure and content of dynamic political talk online. We conducted an analysis of political polarization across social media platforms (analyzing Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp) over 16 months, with close to a quarter million online contributions regarding a political controversy in Israel. Our comprehensive measurement of interactive political talk enables us to address three key aspects of political polarization: (1) interactional polarization – homophilic versus heterophilic user interactions; (2) positional polarization – the positions expressed, and (3) affective polarization – the emotions and attitudes expressed. Our findings indicate that political polarization on social media cannot be conceptualized as a unified phenomenon, as there are significant cross-platform differences. While interactions on Twitter largely conform to established expectations (homophilic interaction patterns, aggravating positional polarization, pronounced inter-group hostility), on WhatsApp, de-polarization occurred over time. Surprisingly, Facebook was found to be the least homophilic platform in terms of interactions, positions, and emotions expressed. Our analysis points to key conceptual distinctions and raises important questions about the drivers and dynamics of political polarization online.

Who are ‘the people’? Uses of empty signifiers in propagandistic news discourse
Pasitselska, O., & Baden, C. (2020). Who are ‘the people’? Uses of empty signifiers in propagandistic news discourse. The Journal of Language and Politics , 19 (4), 666-690. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

As expressions without clear definition but with strong normative charging, empty signifiers play an important role in political discourse: Uniting diverse populations under a common banner and endowing political demands with self-evident legitimacy, they constitute a potent tool for rallying support for political action. Among empty signifiers, one particularly versatile construct are ‘the people’ as bearers of ultimate political legitimacy. In this paper, we investigate how ‘the people’ are constructed in propagandistic conflict narratives during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, imbuing the concept with different meanings in the pursuit of competing political ends. We show how ‘the people’ are constructed as democratic sovereign, enduring nation, moral humans or dispersed media publics, each time summoning different kinds of legitimacy and using different strategies to construct encompassing consensus and marginalize dissent. We discuss implications for the study of ideological discourse, populism and political communication.

 

Reframing community boundaries: The erosive power of new media spaces in authoritarian societies.
David, Y., & Baden, C. (2020). Reframing community boundaries: The erosive power of new media spaces in authoritarian societies. Information, Communication & Society , 23 (1), 110-127. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This study examines the role of digital media within the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, a conservative closed community, whose leadership is unable or unwilling to control the effects of digital media on the rank-and-file. Over the past decade, digital media have played an important role for challenging authoritarian rule around the globe. Especially in ideological communities sustained by strict taboos, digital media hold the potential to subvert hegemonic discourses. In this study, we make use of an incident that forced Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox community to address its long-standing taboo and hateful attitudes toward LGBT and Queer issues. In July 2015, an Ultra-Orthodox community member attacked participants of the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, murdering one and wounding six. While traditional community media attempted to ignore the event, two major Ultra-Orthodox news websites fell outside the control exercised by the community leadership, and enabled subversive discussions within the Ultra-Orthodox community. Through a process of negotiating the meaning of the attack, these discussions resulted in a reframing of the boundaries of the community, breaking a path for further contestation and debate. Using grounded theory analysis, this article contributes to a better understanding of the role of digital media in enabling contestation and challenging established power structures within authoritarian closed communities.

This study examines the role of digital media within the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel, a conservative closed community, whose leadership is unable or unwilling to control the effects of digital media on the rank-and-file. Over the past decade, digital media have played an important role for challenging authoritarian rule around the globe. Especially in ideological communities sustained by strict taboos, digital media hold the potential to subvert hegemonic discourses. In this study, we make use of an incident that forced Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox community to address its long-standing taboo and hateful attitudes toward LGBT and Queer issues. In July 2015, an Ultra-Orthodox community member attacked participants of the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, murdering one and wounding six. While traditional community media attempted to ignore the event, two major Ultra-Orthodox news websites fell outside the control exercised by the community leadership, and enabled subversive discussions within the Ultra-Orthodox community. Through a process of negotiating the meaning of the attack, these discussions resulted in a reframing of the boundaries of the community, breaking a path for further contestation and debate. Using grounded theory analysis, this article contributes to a better understanding of the role of digital media in enabling contestation and challenging established power structures within authoritarian closed communities.

 

2019
Framing the news
Baden, C. (2019). Framing the news. In K. W. - Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (Ed.), The Handbook of Journalism Studies (2nd ed., pp. 229-245) . Routledge. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This chapter reviews the ample scholarship on framing the news in light of what it can contribute to understanding the specific role and contribution of journalists. Journalists are framers. Within the journalistic news production process, one of the key decisions that every journalist needs to make time and again concerns what “aspects of a perceived reality” to foreground; what “connection among them” to weave; and thus what meaning to provide “to an unfolding strip of events”. In academic scholarship, the framing of journalistic news has also received an immense amount of attention. One difficulty in assessing the role of journalism within this public process of negotiating frames derives from the relative scarcity of research directly addressing journalistic framing practices. Owing to the power of news frames to shape public opinion and political agendas, scholars have accumulated a huge body of literature scrutinizing the specific frames used for covering virtually any kind of issue.

2018
Not so bad news? Investigating journalism’s contribution to what is bad, and good, in news on violent conflict
Baden, C., & Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2018). Not so bad news? Investigating journalism’s contribution to what is bad, and good, in news on violent conflict. In R. Fröhlich (Ed.), Media in war and armed conflict: Dynamics of conflict news production and dissemination (pp. 51-75) . Routledge.
Dissecting media roles in conflict: A transactionist process model of conflict news production, dissemination, and influence
Baden, C., & Meyer, C. O. (2018). Dissecting media roles in conflict: A transactionist process model of conflict news production, dissemination, and influence. In R. Fröhlich (Ed.), Media in war and armed conflict: Dynamics of conflict news production and dissemination (pp. 23-48) . Routledge.
Gendered communication styles in the news: An algorithmic comparative study of conflict coverage
Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K., & Baden, C. (2018). Gendered communication styles in the news: An algorithmic comparative study of conflict coverage. Communication Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Over the past few decades, numerous studies have examined the question of whether women and men tend to use different communicative styles, strategies, and practices. In this study, we employed a high-resolution algorithmic approach to examine the role of gender in structuring conflict news discourse, focusing on a comparison between the texts produced by foreign and domestic women and men journalists in their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Extracting recurrent semantic patterns from over 80,000 texts, we show that women and men journalists tend to interpret journalistic professionalism in slightly different ways: While women emphasize precision and professional distance, men focus more on certitude and providing orientation. Moreover, women journalists tend to give more centrality to various groups of people in their coverage. We discuss these findings in the context of scholarship on gender and language use, journalism, and conflict.

On Resonance: A study of culture-dependent reinterpretations of extremist violence in Israeli media discourse
Baden, C., & David, Y. (2018). On Resonance: A study of culture-dependent reinterpretations of extremist violence in Israeli media discourse. Media, Culture & Society , 40 (4), 514-534. Publisher's VersionAbstract

When and why do communities accept novel ideas as intuitively convincing? In the present study, we make use of the socio-cultural fragmentation of Israeli society to expose the discursive processes shaping the culture-dependent resonance of ideas. Specifically, we trace how Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s interpretation of two lethal attacks by Jewish extremists on a Palestinian family and the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade were received across Israel’s ultra-orthodox, settler, LGBT and Palestinian communities, as well as the mainstream right, center, and left. In a comparative analysis of media coverage catering to these groups, we distinguish six discursive responses to proposed ideas, which depend on their perception as plausible and appropriate given prior community beliefs. Our findings suggest a distinction between two possible meanings of resonance: Some ideas ‘click’ and are seamlessly appropriated in passing by a community, while others ‘strike a chord’ and raise a salient and emotional public debate.

Navigating the complexities of media roles in conflict: The INFOCORE approach
Meyer, C. O., Baden, C., & Frère, M. - S. (2018). Navigating the complexities of media roles in conflict: The INFOCORE approach. Media, War & Conflict , 11 (1), 3-21. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The article draws on the first findings of the INFOCORE project to better understand the ways in which different types of media matter to the emergence, escalation or, conversely, the pacification and prevention of violence. The authors make the case for combining an interactionist approach of media influence, which is centred on the effects of evidential claims, frames and agendas made by various actors over time, with greater sensitivity for the factors that make conflict cases so different. They argue that the specific role played by the media depends, chiefly: (a) on the ways in which it transforms conflict actors’ claims, interpretations and prescriptions into media content; and (b) their ability to amplify these contents and endow them with reach, visibility and consonance. They found significant variation in media roles across six conflict cases and suggest that they are best explained four interlocking conditioning factors: (i) the degree to which the media landscape is diverse and free, or conversely, controlled and instrumentalized by conflict parties; (ii) societal attitudes to and uses of different media by audiences; (iii) different degrees of conflict intensity and dynamics between the conflict parties; (iv) the degree and nature of the involvement of regional and international actors. The article maintains that de-escalatory media influence will be most effective over the longer term, in settings of low intensity conflict and when tailored carefully to local conditions.

Reconstructing frames from intertextual news discourse: A semantic network approach to news framing analysis
Baden, C. (2018). Reconstructing frames from intertextual news discourse: A semantic network approach to news framing analysis. In P. D'Angelo (Ed.), Doing news framing analysis II: Empirical and theoretical perspectives (pp. 3-26) . London, Routledge. Publisher's VersionAbstract

News items rarely stand by themselves. In order to grasp their meaning, news audiences need to interpret the news against a background of rich contextual knowledge, much of which is derived from previous news discourse. Accordingly, news frames can be understood as intertextual leads that guide audiences to contextualize events in specific ways, referring selectively to familiar entities and ideas and embedding present news items within the context of ongoing news stories, debates and issues. In this chapter, I propose an approach to news framing analysis that acknowledges the many ways in which news frames transgress the boundaries of single news items, spanning an intertextual network. I show how a corpus of prior news can be used to go beyond the manifest news content and explicate the additional knowledge imported by intertextual framing devices. By bringing together textual, cultural, and psychological perspectives upon framing, I develop strategies for determining how audiences complete the missing information needed for constructing meaningful news frames, and discuss avenues for the treatment of subjectivity in framing research.

The search for common ground in conflict news research: Comparing the coverage of six current conflicts in domestic and international media over time
Baden, C., & Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2018). The search for common ground in conflict news research: Comparing the coverage of six current conflicts in domestic and international media over time. Media, War & Conflict , 11 (1), 22-45. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In its search for media influences in violent conflict, most existing scholarship has investigated the coverage of specific, salient conflict events. Media have been shown to focus on violence, sidelining concerns of reconciliation and disengaging rapidly as time proceeds. Studies have documented ethnocentric bias and self-reinforcing media hypes, which have been linked to escalation and radicalization. However, based on the existing studies, it remains hard to gauge if the unearthed patterns of media coverage are generally pervasive or limited to a few salient moments, specific conflicts or contexts. Likewise, we cannot say if different kinds of media apply similar styles of conflict coverage, or if their coverage is subject to specific contextual or outlet-specific factors. In this article, the authors compare the contents of both domestic and foreign opinion-leading media coverage across six selected conflicts over a time range of 4 to 10 years. They conduct a diachronic, comparative analysis of 3,700 semantic concepts raised in almost 900,000 news texts from 66 different news media. Based on this analysis, they trace when and to what extent each outlet focuses its attention on the conflict, highlights specific aspects (notably, violence and suffering, negotiations and peaceful solutions), and presents relevant in- and out-groups, applying different kinds of evaluation. The analysis generally corroborates the media’s tendency to cover conflict in an event-oriented, violence-focused and ethnocentric manner, both during routine periods and – exacerbated merely by degrees – during major escalation. At the same time, the analysis highlights important differences in the strength and appearance of these patterns, and points to recurrent contingencies that can be tied to the specific contextual factors and general journalistic logics shaping the coverage.

Journalistic transformation: How source texts are turned into news stories
Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K., & Baden, C. (2018). Journalistic transformation: How source texts are turned into news stories. Journalism , 19 (4), 481-499 . SAGE Publications. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the scholarly debate, ideals of original reporting are commonly contrasted against the churnalistic reproduction of source content. However, most news making lies between these poles: Journalists rely on but transform the available source material, renegotiating its original meaning. In this article, we define journalistic transformation as those interventions journalists make in their use of third-party textual material in the pursuit of crafting a news story. Journalists (1) select contents from available source texts, (2) position these contents, (3) augment them with further information, and (4) arrange all to craft characteristic news narratives. To investigate journalistic transformation practices, we compare source materials used in the news (e.g. press releases, speeches) to the resulting Israeli, Palestinian, and international coverage of the abduction and murder of four youths in summer 2014. We identify five kinds of journalistic transformation – evaluative, political, cultural, emotive, and professional – each of which actualizes a different journalistic function and contributes to rendering the news relevant to the respective audiences in distinct ways.

Viewpoint, Testimony, Action: How journalists reposition source frames within news frames
Baden, C., & Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2018). Viewpoint, Testimony, Action: How journalists reposition source frames within news frames. Journalism Studies , 19 (1), 143-161 . Routledge. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the production of news, the frames presented by selected sources play a critical role. However, to create coherent, authoritative, and relevant news stories from the selected input, journalists need to actively transform the available material and fit it within a journalistic news frame. In our study, we investigate how Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign (US, UK, German) newspapers made use of highly salient source statements in their coverage of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli and one Palestinian teenager in summer 2014. Performing a qualitative analysis, we identify three characteristic ways in which journalists reposition selected sources’ frames within their coverage: journalists can rely on selected source frames to present specific, subjective viewpoints; they can present multiple source frames as testimonies about newsworthy events; and they can interpret them as communicative actions in sources’ struggle for recognition in the public arena. Each strategy contributes to the construction of a different, broad class of news frames, reflecting different journalistic styles and norms. We discuss implications for the study of news frames and the different roles of political sources within the news.

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